Stephon Marbury Syndrome: What Not To Do With Social Media

In my last post I discussed a case study of an athlete who helped his career by using social media.  Unfortunately, all it takes is a daily dose of SportsCenter to realize that many athletes get themselves into trouble by using social media irresponsibly.  In case you aren’t up to date with the Web 2.0 mishaps of sports stars, this blog post has a concise outline of specific examples.  Some of the more amusing blunders include Stephon Marbury streaming video of himself smoking marijuana and getting into a car accident, Robert Henson calling Redskins fans dim wits, and JR Smith revealing his alleged gang affiliations via Twitter.

If social media can be used as such a great avenue to market oneself and connect with fans, why are so many athletes misusing them?  Mike Germano, president of the new-media marketing company Carrot Creative, says that athletes are simply uneducated about the tools.  Social media allow players to market themselves rather than outsource marketing to a firm, so he thinks that such firms will soon start teaching players how to use new media rather than doing the actual marketing.

I'll spare you the agony of watching the actual video of Marbury.  Source:

I'll spare you the agony of watching the actual video of Marbury. Source:

David Neiman of Athlete Interactive has another take on social media mistakes, focusing on “The Marbury Experiment” in particular.  One of his key points is that an athlete’s online presence needs to have some sort of strategy or purpose.  Many athletes jump on the social media bandwagon simply because they see their teammates tweeting and think they need to do it.  As a result, many athletes’ online communications are irrelevant and lack a focused strategy.  Marbury’s webcam antics, for example, had no clear purpose.  He simply broadcasted himself 24/7 eating vaseline and breaking down into tears, leaving viewers puzzled.  It seemed to be an attempt to bring his suffering career back to the spotlight by any means necessary.  Neiman thinks that if Marbury’s UStream effort had a clear, focused strategy it could have actually helped his identity rather than annihilate it.

6 Responses to “Stephon Marbury Syndrome: What Not To Do With Social Media”
  1. It is definitely true that athletes can get themselves in trouble when they say things that the general public can look at, such as blogs and tweets online. Athletes have to remember that anything could jeopardize their career even if it has to do with their personal life. Do you think that since social media has become so popular athletes are being more careful or are they still adapting to the newness of the mediums?

    • Adam Dove says:

      I think athletes are still adapting to social media, because you still see them getting into trouble fairly often today. Sooner or later, though, I think they will understand how to use Twitter and blogs more responsibly. More and more leagues and teams are making policies about when and what players can tweet about, so if nothing else, they will learn to be more careful by facing fines and other punishments. One college football player at Texas Tech was even forced to close his Twitter account after an ill-advised tweet.

  2. Beth Feather says:

    Ok but there is also an argument that these athletes are getting into this trouble on social media sites because they are in the spotlight and whatever they do is heightened. I say this just because I know a lot of people who dont use the sites “responsively.” Underage drinking, scandalous pictures, foul language….all of these things that many users of social media do are things we say athletes are doing wrong. I don’t think it is that they dont know HOW to use the sites, I think they just need to remember who they are and take some responsibility in the fact that they are role models more than the average citizen.

    • Adam Dove says:

      You’re absolutely right, Beth. For every athlete who does something stupid with social media, there are thousands of college kids making vulgar comments or posting pictures of themselves drinking on Facebook. The only difference is that the athletes’ accounts are highly scrutinized.

      This all should serve as a wake up call to EVERYONE–athletes and the general public–that nothing you post online is private anymore. An unflattering picture of someone’s college days can seriously hurt their potential career.

  3. I think athletes need to realize that it’s almost more important to be trained in how to deal with social media than traditional media. At least a mistake with traditional media can be “spun” by a good publicist. You mess up in social media, and it’s your direct words or video.

    I disagree with anyone that feels that athletes should stay away from social media, and agree wholeheartedly with David that a larger online strategy not only enhances an athletes presence, but also results in more accountability and most likely training on the topic.

    Just found your blog tonight Adam, looking forward to following more!

    • Adam Dove says:

      Thanks for checking out my blog, Brian. I definitely agree with you on the importance of athletes being trained in social media. Now that social media is very mainstream with athletes and we have seen the effects that mistakes can have, maybe teams and athletes will invest in more social media education from PR people and social media experts.

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